GREENFIELD — The new Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management facility at 740 S. Franklin St. is a sight to behold.

The modern 13,500-square-foot structure is vastly different from the department’s previous two homes.

The office was most recently located in a former veterinary clinic off U.S. 40, and before that was housed inside a trailer just outside of Park Cemetery off Ind. 9.

The department’s director, Amanda Dehoney, said it was a dream come true to move into the new facility in late September, but the pens housing cats and dogs are already close to capacity.

As of Nov. 3, the shelter was housing 42 cats and 23 dogs, most of which are available for adoption.

“We’re hoping that with the building being more visible now we can increase adoptions. We’re a low-kill shelter, so we try to adopt out as many as we can,” said Dehoney, who has led the department since 2016.

Last week, dozens of dogs, cats and kittens were awaiting their “fur-ever” homes at the new shelter, which is currently open by appointment only. The building will be open to the public after a December open house celebration, which is yet to be scheduled.

While Dehoney is thrilled with the new facility, she said more funding is needed to adequately staff it.

“We love the new space. We just wish we had enough staff there to support it,” said Dehoney, who heads an eight-person team including one administrative assistant, two animal control officers and four shelter assistants.

While the department was previously in cramped quarters, the new shelter boasts eight cat rooms, six dog rooms and one room for other animals like guinea pigs and lizards. There are also two office areas, two laundry rooms, three bathrooms and a break room.

All animal rooms are equipped with new state-of-the art pens which give visitors a clear view of the furry faces within, in addition to walls that keep waste and food areas separate.

Greenfield-Hancock Animal Management is run by the City of Greenfield and funded by both the Greenfield City Council and Hancock County commissioners.

The department is responsible for enforcing state laws and city and county ordinances in regards to animals, removing dead or injured animals within city limits, and investigating cases of animal cruelty and neglect. The staff is also tasked with sheltering lost and stray dogs and cats, facilitating adoptions, and educating the public about responsible pet ownership.

Dehoney said adoptions at the shelter have been down in recent months, a trend that’s been evident among shelters and rescue groups throughout the state.

“A lot of people who adopted (pets) during COVID are now either giving them back because they’re going back to work or can no longer afford them, or they’re at their limit for the number of pets they can take,” she said.

The Hancock County Humane Society — a volunteer-based, feline-focused nonprofit that’s separate from the shelter — frequently takes cats and kittens from the shelter to help facilitate adoptions.

Dehoney said all pets adopted out through animal management have been temperament tested and spayed or neutered, but that a shelter should be a last resort when trying to rehome a pet. “Some people think their dog will be highly adoptable, but they come in here into a different environment and can freak out a little bit, so their behavior can change,” she said. “We should be your last resort.”

Even with adoption rates down, Dehoney and her staff still see plenty of happy connections being made at the shelter.

One “tuff” dog

Bob and Kalah Farmer called the department to pick up a heavily matted stray dog that had wandered onto their rural Greenfield property one Saturday in early October, whimpering as he emerged from the shrubs.

The Farmers have had a history of taking in strays over the years, but with Tuffy, as the dog has come to be known, it wasn’t as simple as setting out a bed and a food dish.

“We were both horrified. You couldn’t even tell it was a dog,” said Kalah Farmer. “He could barely see for the hair hanging over his eyes. You couldn’t even see where his legs or tail was, and he was dragging a 10-12 inch mat behind him. It was awful,” she recalled.

Knowing she wouldn’t be able to cut through the thick mats herself, Farmer trimmed the hair around the dog’s eyes, made him some scrambled eggs and called her vet — who was unavailable — so she reached out to animal control for help.

She was impressed with the young animal control officer who promptly showed up to take the little dog, who was hanging out in the Farmers’ garage. When the officer arrived, she couldn’t even tell what gender the dog was.

“Her compassion is what I was really impressed with,” said Farmer, who said she experienced far less compassion in dealing with local animal control officers decades ago.

“The staff there now is taking really good care of these animals. (The officer) was very gentle with (Tuffy) and wrapped him up in a blanket. She was just so sweet with him. It seems like the department has a whole different mindset than they had before. They have a lot of compassion for animals,” she said.

Tuffy spent that night at the new animal shelter, where the next day a local groomer volunteered to shave five pounds of matted hair off the dog, which weighed in around 16 pounds after the mats were removed.

An exam revealed that some of the dog’s teeth had broken down all the way to the gums, and he had one jaw that had been broken and healed on its own. He had also been neutered and appeared to be house trained.

“Who knows what he had been through,” said Farmer, who named the resilient little dog Tuffy “because it looked like he had such a rough time, but he rose above it all.”

She and her husband couldn’t stop thinking about him, so they made arrangements to go to the shelter to pick him up as soon as he was ready to be released on Oct. 11, just 10 days after they found him wandering through their yard.

Tuffy is now living his best life in the Farmers’ home, where he sleeps in their bed each night.

Kalah Farmer can’t wait for the shelter to open to the public, so more adoptions can take place. “While they do an amazing job there, I know they deal with overcrowding,” she said. “It would really help if everyone would spay or neuter their pets, which is so much cheaper (than dealing with unwanted animals) in the long run.”

Dehoney hopes to secure more funding to help run the shelter in the future, but for now, she’s seeking volunteers to help with feeding, walking and playing with animals, taking adoption photos and cleaning cages.

Volunteers must be at least 16 years older. For information, call the shelter at (317) 477-4367.